Meet the music boss who signed Bowie and told Mick Jagger to get a pension
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Meet the music boss who signed Bowie and told Mick Jagger to get a pension

We speak to Laurence Myers, the 'very Jewish' accountant who advised the Rolling Stones frontman he wouldn't be singing at 60, and helped launch one of the biggest music icons

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Laurence with his wife of 57 years, Marsha
Laurence with his wife of 57 years, Marsha

During his years as an accountant, Laurence Myers still remembers one young wannabe singer, skinny, with long hair and distinctively large lips, striding into his office to ask about pensions.

“After all, Laurence, I’m not going to be singing rock ‘n’ roll when I’m 60,” he gestured. “No, you’re not,” agreed Myers, laughing at the almost preposterous thought.

Looking back on that moment today, nearly six decades later, Myers finds himself chuckling in disbelief at the financial advice he gave to none other than Mick Jagger.

“At 76, he’s still rocking and certainly doesn’t need a pension,” he exclaims. “But then, who knew? Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”

Now a sprightly 83-year-old himself, Myers has certainly led a life filled with eye-popping anecdotes emanating right from the heart of the entertainment industry during the ‘60s and ‘70s, as detailed in his fascinating new memoir, Hunky Dory (Who Knew?), published this week.

Mick and Keith with Laurence in the background

Known as the “go-to” accountant for the music industry and later as a music business executive and film and theatre producer in his own right, he went from looking after the Rolling Stones, to shepherding acts like the Animals, Donovan, Jeff Beck, Lulu, Donna Summer and Billy Ocean.

Apart from advising a young Jagger on saving his pennies for the future, the St John’s Wood resident recalls how he left Led Zeppelin’s cash in a safe – and lost the key – as well as the moment he ended up throwing Rod Stewart out of his office and turned down the chance to manage Queen and a “blind, Italian opera singer”.

Thankfully, Andrea Bocelli still did just fine.

His proudest memory is unequivocally the day he decided to risk all and give David Bowie a chance, when others in the music industry had already turned him away.

Today he is a man with many interesting stories to share – so much so, that his family urged him to “go write a book” – but throughout his memoir, one gets the keen impression Myers himself couldn’t appreciate the enormity of working with some of the greatest names in this golden era of music, until many years late – hence the “who knew?” part of his title.

While his working career became swaddled in Hollywood parties and a jet-set life spent between London, Los Angeles and New York, Myers came from humbler roots, growing up in East Ham and later Finsbury Park to a family of Russian and Polish-Jewish immigrants.

“I’m very, very Jewish,” he tells me. “I was brought up in a Jewish family with yiddishkeit, Friday nights, going to shul and the Jewish way of life. It is who I am and has affected my whole life.”

At age 16, he was presented with “the Jewish mother’s list” of becoming a doctor, architect, dentist or accountant and settled for the latter, but with an initial salary of just 15 shillings a week (75 pence in today’s money), Myers found himself having to supplement his income with hard graft running a sweet stall on Club Row Waste, an extension of Petticoat Lane in the East End.

He recalls: “My parents weren’t wealthy by any means and found it hard to give me any more money, so I worked the markets. I think that was a far better education for business than being an accountant, because it taught me about having a good work ethic. There’s not much romance in schlepping to the markets at six in the morning. It also taught me about how to deal with people and give them what they want.”

His ability to schmooze the customer later translated to handling some of the greatest household names from the music industry.

Hunky Dory (Who Knew?) by Laurence Myers is published by B&B Books priced £20 (hardback). Available now.

Among his proudest achievements was signing David Bowie at a time when other record labels had already rejected him – albeit at great personal financial risk.

Myers tells me: “I wasn’t a big corporation. I had a home and a mortgage and had to put up my own money for David’s promo record. But when that got us a deal, his wife Angie told me she was very grateful for the chance I’d given him when no-one else would. I’m very proud of that.”

Along the way, there were also the more difficult personalities for Myers to manage, with Adam Faith topping his list.

“He judged everything with, ‘would Marlon Brando do it?’ I used to tell him, ‘well no, he wouldn’t do it, but you’re not bloody Marlon Brando’. I was working with him on my first production, Budgie The Musical, but if it had been my fifth, I would’ve fired him. He was all about the ego.”

Myers also recalls, with some pain, how his foray into film production resulted into “one of the greatest disasters in the history of the Cannes Film Festival”, when a publicity party for the The Greek Tycoon starring Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset went completely awry – including his white suit being doused in red wine by the end of the night.

Suffice to say, he concludes that he remained a “very, very small fish in the film pool – a tiddler”, but in the music business he remained “an important name.”

His was a career paved with a few bumps along the way, but ultimately one that he can look back with fondness and few regrets.

Even today, Myers, who has been married to Marsha for 57 years and has three children, is rarely spotted putting his feet up. Apart from his memoir, he’s just served as executive producer on the new Judy biopic starring Renee Zellweger and is working on a screenplay.

“The only thing I regret is not having spent more time being creative,” he opines. “For many years, I was known as an accountant and people thought, well what do you know? It took a look time for me to start having the confidence to realise actually I did know.”

  •  Hunky Dory (Who Knew?) by Laurence Myers is published by B&B Books priced £20 (hardback). Available now.

 

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